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Obama to limit scope of presidential signing statements

[JURIST] US President Barack Obama [official profile] issued a memorandum [text] Monday that proposes to limit the use of attaching presidential signing statements [1993 DOJ backgrounder] which raise constitutional or other legal questions before bills are signed into law. The memorandum suggested parameters for the disregard of statutory provisions based solely on differences in policy, yet at the same time recognized the need to uphold the historical and legal significance of raising valid constitutional objections. Obama also noted the public criticism of presidential signing statements generated by the George W. Bush [JURIST news archive] administration, and the memorandum states:

To ensure that all signing statements previously issued are followed only when consistent with these principles, executive branch departments and agencies are directed to seek the advice of the Attorney General before relying on signing statements issued prior to the date of this memorandum as the basis for disregarding, or otherwise refusing to comply with, any provision of a statute.
In addition, Obama set forth guidelines he will follow when using signing statements, including communicating with Congress when practicable, acting with restraint and caution, clearly and specifically stating objections if they arise, and constructing statutory provisions to avoid constitutional problems only if they are legitimate.

A report [text, PDF] issued in 2007 by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) [official website] said that Bush's use of bill signing statements had led to several instances where provisions of laws had been ignored in favor of the Bush administration's interpretation. Critics of the procedure, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking Republican member Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official websites] have said that Bush's signing statements impermissibly intrude upon Congress's power to write and enact laws under Article I of the Constitution [text], which vests "[a]ll legislative powers herein granted" in Congress. In 2006, the American Bar Association (ABA) [official website] criticized the practice [JURIST report] as undermining congressional authority.

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